What does Apple have to do to make the Apple TV a success this fall? This question has been on my mind the last couple days in light of talk that the mythical Apple TV update may be coming soon. My answer to this question seems very obvious, but I’m skeptical it’s what we’ll see from Apple this fall.
I think Apple needs to look at the Chromecast for inspiration and not the current Apple TV. The ideal Apple TV would be $50 and plug into the side of your TV. It would be more independent than the Chromecast (which doesn't do anything without a smartphone), having a UI that's fast, clean, and easy to use. I'd also love if it would work with multiple platforms like the Chromecast, but there's no way Apple is going down that road.
People are excited for what the Apple TV could be and they're making a lot of guesses. All the guesses I have seen are talking about a bigger, badder version of what we have now, but I think that's a backwards view of the way people are consuming media today. So when people talk about the Apple TV as if it will give us a new way to consume media, I shake my head because what we're really talking about will not be solved by a new set-top box.
A new way to watch TV would be a complete rethink of iTunes, and in turn a completely new service. It doesn't matter how good the Apple TV's interface is if you still have to buy 22 minute sitcoms for $2.99. It won't matter if you can just watch Netflix on yet another way on your TV. They could go this route and people would like it, but it's not going to change much about your experience from what we have now.
Another consideration is how many people are watching Netflix and Hulu on their portable devices more and more. I know lots of couples who watch on a iPad in bed. I know people who watch on their phone on the train to work. A TV service that only works on the television isn't going to be as enticing to the media absorbing 18-39 crowd who Apple needs to appeal to. A full service that spans all of Apple's devices is the only route to these customers. And based on recent reports, Apple has not gotten the deals to make a new service like this a reality yet.
I guess at the end of the day all I want from an Apple TV is something affordable and not too fancy, but that is reliable and quick. It’s a crime that I find the Chromecast to be a more reliable way for me to put video from my phone onto my TV right now when AirPlay is built into the OS. I want a simple remote with physical buttons and a bluetooth connection. And I want a new way to watch the channels/shows that I want without the compromises of the current leaders in the market.
My fear is that Apple is just working on creating a box that is similar to the existing Apple TV, but has a faster processor, has a touchscreen remote, has an SDK, and has a nicer UI with the same old content delivery system. Without a new model for watching television shows, I worry that the new and improved Apple TV will be just as much the hobby that it is today.